Joe Pizza of Centerville plays “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” at the Kroger Marketplace off State Route 48 in Centerville as a kettle volunteer for The Salvation Army. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY PAMELA DILLON

Salvation Army $300K short of goal

Group looking for ‘big hearts’ to give in final hours

“If things don’t improve here in the last week of December, as we finish up our fundraising time of the year, we’ll have to re-evalute as we go through the year what we can and can’t do,” Tim Erlandson, business administrator at the Salvation Army, said Tuesday evening.

Red kettle collections are lagging in other cities, too. On Tuesday, the Columbus Dispatch reported the nonprofit’s central Ohio branch was still about $200,000 shy of its goal to raise $700,000 by the end of 2015. Maj. Debra Ashcraft, an officer in the Salvation Army, pointed to people not carrying cash anymore and a shortage of volunteers.

Erlandson brought up a third potential problem: “It’s great that the sun is shining and it’s 60 degrees out, but people do not feel ‘Christmasy,’” he said. “Maybe they’re not thinking about giving to our organization at this time of the year because it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

According to Erlandson, Christmas assistance is one of the Salvation Army’s highest priorities. The money from the Red Kettle Campaign is used to feed hundreds of thousands of families every holiday season. On Wednesday, 4,000 Dayton families received turkeys and Kroger gift cards from the Salvation Army — a gift made possible through donations.

“They reach the people that I can’t reach and giving is really important — that’s really what this whole season is about, is giving,” said Trisha Kutter, an Eaton resident who said she donated to several kettles this year.

Just after Thanksgiving, two gold Krugerrands were found in Dayton-area kettles for the first time since Erlandson can remember. He has been with the Salvation Army for six years. Since that gift, however, the donations have not been coming in quickly enough.

In 2014, the Salvation Army went into Christmas week approximately $50,000 ahead of where it is this week. With a huge push in the days leading up the 25th, it was able to reach its $1 million goal.

“One of the things that we are constantly amazed by is that, in the Dayton community, there are a lot of people that just give,” Erlandson said. “There are a lot of big hearts; open hearts.”